Thursday, 9 June 2011

Manc Riders Normandy Tour 2011

Manc Riders Normandy Tour 2011

Well it all seemed to creep up on us from an idea on the forum in January to “let’s go abroad!”

Next followed a meeting at Panman’s where we decided Normandy was a great first European ride destination as no one other than me, had ridden in Europe before.

Next came the post...........................

06 February 2011 - 02:42 PM

Ok Guys and Dolls,

We have confirmed the above dates for our first trip overseas, were leaving on the Thursday for a 8.15pm crossing to St Malo arriving the following morning and returning the following Monday the 30th.

The plan is to stay in B & B Accom....

Further details to be posted as we arrange them but we need numbers by this Friday in order to make a group booking on the ferry which is more cost effective.

Please add your names below and provide me with a deposit within the next 2 weeks if possible please.

Ray and Ben
LittleBIGkev...deposit paid.
Phil aka BadBoyBez
Duffy and Alex

And so the adventure began........  Manc Riders Normany Tour 2011

The biggest decision I had to make was “should I, or should I not take Ben?”

I thought about it long and hard, even though I had put his name in the pot at the very first meeting. Taking a 9 year old on the bike all the way to France was a major, major decision. My brain ran through all the eventualities of him being tired, bored, feeling out of place as all the other riders were adults. Plus, would I be putting the other riders out, as Ben would inevitably impact on their ability to “have a good time”!!! Everything went through my head but as we chatted on the forum and had a “Pre-Normandy BBQ” at ours I realised, if I was going to take Ben abroad on “The Beast” it would be with these guys, “Our Band of Brothers”.
"The Beast's" last trip so best be a good'n!

So it was set the date for departure, Thursday 26th May from Portsmouth to St Malo returning Monday the 30th.
Everything from kit to accommodation to points of interest was banded about on the forum. I just took all the information and places of interest, including a British War Cemetery called St Manvieu British Cemetery N49 10.643 W0 30.788 and started to add them to a MapSource map. In total at one point there were some 35 points of interest. The next job was to come up for a route which was not too over the top but which would include just enough to make the ride worthwhile & interesting. No mean feat once I through into the pot Ben as pillion.
I then went into top gear sorting out food, kit, clothes and the all important “Love Handles” Belts for both Ben & I to wear so I could fasten him on via the use of screw-gate karabiners and quick draw karabiners. This worked a treat as Ben had a fair few sleeps on the way there and back due to feeling safe and secure.

Panman & Ducky did a great job of sorting the ferry there & back, finding “biker friendly”  accommodation and getting them both booked & in the case of the ferry paid for.

The list of attendees changed a few times between February and May as is inevitable with “Life” getting in the way but come the big day the “Band of Brothers” comprised of

Panman Chips - BMW K1200 who sorted ferry, accommodation & UK ride down

BadBoyBez  - Honda Pan European who sorted T-Shirts, patches & flag

Anthony1664 – Kawasaki Versy

Lefty – Kawasaki Ninja 600

LBK – Triumph Tiger 1050 (It is what it is!)

XAndyX1 – Triumph Tiger 1050 (LBK’s Luggage handler)

Jap_STi_3 – Yamaha FJR 1300 European Route Planner (with Ben) (to cut a long story short)

Time for the off, "Bye Mum"
Thursday - So that was it we were ready for the off, Panman Chips, LKK, XAndyX1, Ben & I all met at Panman’s for a brew before meeting BadBoyBez & Lefty at Knutsford Services. Raining all the way!

Panman lead the way down the M6, M5 then across to the A34 south towards Oxford, Winchester & Newbury then on to Portsmouth. We stopped at the “Pit Stop Cafe & Truckstop” 1 mile off Junction 5 of the M5 for a spot of lunch then it was south to pick up Anthony1664 who had ridden down the previous day to have a look around. Still raining!

We were told to line up in line 13, sadly this is where we had our first spill as one of the lads just clipped the panniers of another and went over wedging himself between his bike and a 4x4. Panniers cracked, pride dented but no bones or major bike bits broken.

Rope & cushen in place, time to head up stairs.

Not be long before Ben was regretting looking over there.
Half filling a small paper bag before falling asleep....Bless Him!

Comfortable as they were to sit in, sleeping in them was impossible! Ben could not even push the seat back far enough to sleep and it crippled my back, so after the usual look around the ship, a bit to eat at £20 for a butty and a brew x2. It was time to get our heads down. Give or take 3 hours of walking about. Eventually, laid on the floor and after telling countless “seat scavengers” to clear off as the others were in the bar by now, we got to sleep lying in the foot well of our two seats. How glad am I that I had packed a blow up pillow and two travel blankets. (Note to self – never ever take over night ferry without a cabin in future. NEVER!)

Friday - Landing in France the weather just changed, sunshine as far as you could see. It was still a little cool at 8.00am but I could see we were in for a treat. Sat nav on, accommodation entered, and off we set only to find once out of St Malo heading to the motorway it was closed. No I mean shut, barrier across the entrance, I carried on looking for the next possible place to do a turnaround only to find the other entrance on the dual carriageway closed too.  Great! I thought to myself now what? Pulling over to let the Sat nav do its “updating” thing, only to have to switch it off and on again. I looked in my mirror, “Shit!” I’d forgotten they were all following me and were now dually parked on the side of the dual carriageway “Not good, not good, come on sat nav get a bloody grip” eventually after what felt like hours (which in fact was possibly 2 minutes at the most), we were off and I had stopped just in the right place as we could turn right and were off towards St Michaels Mount.  (Mont San Michel). Brilliant, decision made, we would visit the mount today, now, this morning.

Happy to be on land again.
"Now where is the ice cream shop again Dad?"
St Micheals Mount

As we approached the mount just a short 40 minutes away I pulled over so the guys could take a few pictures. I was very impressive & I think we all got a few good shots before heading over to the car park. 2 Euros per bike, cheeky gets! Still it was nice to have a mosey round and have what turned out to be the most expensive cup of coffee of the whole trip! It was nice but not 10 Euros nice!

"How much?"

After a good look round it was back to the bikes and on towards La Motte B&B at Virey 7 miles on from Ducy on the D976

That will do nicely thank you.

Arriving at the B&B it looked very impressive. 4 Garages for the bikes, open plan barn with bar, pool table (more about that later), table football, darts board (& this) & table tennis table. It looked perfect. We were met by the owner who showed us to the bar and explained the tab system, small beer 1 Euro & large beer 2 Euro. Ben & I went up to a very tidy room; sadly there was no wardrobe just a metal rack for our clothes. Ben sat on the bed and was immediately reprimanded and told not to put his boots on the bed! Great start I thought, he never does it at home so why would he do it here? We headed down to join the others for a chat. We then rode down into town and had a quick shufty finishing with us having an Italian meal, “Al Fresco”.

Heading back to the B&B with full stomachs and a real thirst it was straight into the barn bar. Straight away the owner told me Ben he was not allowed to use the pool table! Why? as Ben had been playing pool with LBK only half an hour earlier. Ben started playing darts, I asked him if he was Ok, as he turned round to speak to me the owner then said “watch what you’re doing with those darts or your Dad will have 60 Euros to pay for the clear plastic partition. “Jesus, what are these people on?” I thought to myself. We mooched about a bit chatting about the St Micheals Mount. I got my map out of the top box to show Lefty & LBK the route I had planned for the following day. I put my beer on the table and started to open the map. “Don’t put your beer on that table!” That was it! I calmly folded the map up, picked my beer up and went up to the room to join Ben in bed. It was 9.00pm. Apparently under the plastic covered wooden topped table was his precious pool table. 
Lefty, a man with a mission.
A fantastic mission that I was proud to be a part of.

Saturday - Breakfast was fried egg on toast, coffee and croissants. We all met outside, loaded up and I plumbed the route into the sat nav & off we set. Out of the B&B, up the road right, right again and straight up a back road into some old dears back yard with 7 bikes following me. “Bloody Hell! What a start to a 300 mile trip” I was not a happy man.

For the next hour I battled with the sat nav trying to send me back to the start. Top tip do not have the same start and finish point in the sat nav as if your closer to the start it will keep trying to send you the shortest route back...................... aaahhhhggggg!!!!

I ended up stopping on a roundabout and manually choosing the furthest point of our trip and away we went. At last we were truly on our way up the D999. If you are heading north towards Cherbourg get on the D999 it is an amazing road. Lefty had a ball coming back on the Ninja!

Dad's 'n' Lad's

We started at the Route de Phare which gave us a perfect view of all of the Normandy Beaches, so we set, along the side of Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach, & Sword Beach.
Utah Beach
I found it so hard looking across knowing what happened
So very, very hard.

Visiting Le Point deHoc, Normand Battle Museum, Museum of Liberty, Arromanches, American Cemetery (the day before the President was due there),The Brand Bunker British Museum & Pegasus Bridge.

The American Cemetery

Every last word, true.

These guys would be meeting "The President of the USA"
The following day.

Finally St Manvieu British Cemetery where Lefty found his relatives grave and planted a cross of remembrance and a poem from his wife to her Grandfather.

Lance Corporal T. Bennett of the Royal Scots Fusiliers passed on the 25th June 1944 whilst taking part in Operation Martlet which was a fore runner to operation Epsom. The attack was a diversionary attack to prevent 30 Corps getting out flanked. Opposing the British were the 3rd Battalion, 26th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment and elements from the 12th SS Panzer Regiment of 12th SS Panzer Division. Advancing through thick fog they past well dug in machine gun nests, so sadly when they opened fire they were surrounded and attacked from all flanks.  

"We will remember them"


It was a long day and we arrived back at the accommodation after yet another Italian meal “Al Fresco” but at another restaurant who were non to happy with 7 bikers arriving in the car park.

Back at the B&B, a couple of beers for me and lemonade for Ben and it was off to bed having achieved what we set out to do,  visit the Normandy Beaches.

Sunday, Beans on toast, coffee& croissants. We all booked in for evening three course meal of Roast Pork for 20 Euros, mind you, Ben was allowed to eat for free. The plan today was either a ride out on our own, a trip out with the B&B owner or Le Mans with the Boys! No prizes for guessing what Ben chose.
Ben had an amazing day he loved it

He also took a picture of every single car in the

So BadBoyBez took the lead and it was mount up and head out to the famous Le Mans 24 Hour Race track and museum. What a fantastic ride to Le Mans avoiding all toll roads and motorways, brilliant. Arriving, Ben's eyes just lit up, he was in seventh heaven. Cars, cars and more race cars with a few bikes thrown in for good measure.

We had a look around the Official Merchandise shop then into the cafe for a bite to eat before venturing into the museum where Ben ran amuck with the camera and took a picture of every single bike and car in the place & I mean EVERY single one. He loved it, as did we.

After a good hour and a half in there we headed in to the small track called the Piste Bugatti to watch the general public thrash the “ar***” off of the precious sports cars. Some came off worse than others but what a way to spend an afternoon. Entry to the track area not the track was just 3 Euros 50 a bargain in our books.

Ben took lots more pictures and made yet even more videos. It was fantastic and I would recommend a visit to Le Mans to any and every Petrol Head out there.

Back at the B&B we had a great evening meal, followed by a couple of beers and a pack after a nice shower as there was no plug in the bath to have a bath with.

Monday – Up at 6.15 am a cup of coffee and a cold croissant in the barn bar mounted up by 6.55am and away for the 8.00am ferry from St Malo, filling up on the way.

Being asked to line up in lane 13 again when they were only numbered to 12 was very odd but everyone took their place and riding onto the ferry home everyone looked a little subdued, the sign of a great adventure coming to an end.

The crossing back was, how can I say, boring as hell pretty well sums it up. Breakfast £20, lunch £20 & tea £20. Ouch!!!

Coming off the ferry we got split up by the stupid way the exit throws you on to the motorway, sadly one of us dropped their passport on the ramp coming off the boat so Ben & I accompanied by XAndyX1 rode all the way to the M40 alone, meeting up with the lads at the services just before getting onto the motorway. Finally saying our farewells at Knutsford services and arriving home at 11.30pm

All in all the weekend was a fantastic success and Ben covered 1285 miles in the 4 days. Not bad for a 9 year old. I’m as proud as punch of him & would like to thank every single one of the “Band of Brothers” for their support, help and assistance keeping an eye on “Dash”. Ben would also like to thank you all for his Kawasaki Fleecy. You’re a great bunch of guys don’t ever change.

My son in tears.
A memory that will stay with
us both for the rest of our lives.

A massive thank you to each and every one of you for an unforgettable Manc Riders Normandy Tour 2011  from Ben and myself.

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